Can you trust a Christian?

Secular prejudice is fine, but religious belief is increasingly suspect

20 October 2012

For some time we have known about the tension between George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith over welfare reform. The Chancellor wanted more welfare cuts, and the Work and Pensions Secretary resisted: real reform, he said, would cost money. So far, so understandable. But a new biography of the Chancellor by Janan Ganesh reveals another element behind the struggle. Ganesh writes that Osborne ‘questioned the analytical rigour of the Christian Conservatives who hovered behind the project’. A Treasury source is quoted making it clearer still: ‘He thinks the people pushing this are such total advocates and evangelicals that they blind themselves to any downsides.’

To put it another way, the Christianity of Mr Duncan Smith and his associates makes them suspect. As ‘evangelicals’, they don’t function intellectually the way that others do. That’s new. Until very recently, politicians and pundits regarded Christianity as a system of beliefs and values. Grown-ups might have doctrinal differences, but Christianity was a respectable and rational foundation for a world view. When Lady T rowed with bishops, she dealt with them on their own scriptural terms, saying that the Good Samaritan had to make money to give it away in the first place. Religion was part of public debate, not an impediment to it.

It would be unfair to suggest that Mr Osborne’s reservations about religion in public life are anything but typical. The writer Matthew Parris recently expressed exactly the same kind of reserve, with his characteristic charm and eloquence. He recalled a discussion in which he listened respectfully to the arguments of one anti-abortion MP — until he smelt a rat. ‘I noticed his surname. It struck me he was probably a Roman Catholic. I checked; he was a notably convinced Roman Catholic.’ So Parris concluded that the argument was a smokescreen. ‘He presumably believes that it isn’t really a matter of x weeks or y weeks but that almost any termination after conception is not just a sin but a mortal sin, punishable by eternal damnation.’

In other words, the Catholic MP — who had, I assume, an Irish-sounding surname like my own — could be safely discounted as a rational player in an important debate because ‘presumably’ he’s got a thing about sin and damnation. Anyone who lives in parts of the UK still blighted by sectarianism will recognise this way of thinking. But to hear it raised in an English context is quite new.

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What bothers me is the underlying assumption that not just Catholics but religious people generally are incapable of arguing from first principles, because they’re indoctrinated. I am a Catholic, and no one would charge me with keeping the fact quiet. I am also anti-abortion, but not because of scripture. Not because of ideas about when a foetus acquires a soul. Not because the Pope tells me to be. I’m anti-abortion because I regard the foetus as a human entity — a view derived from biology — which should have some protection in law.

I suppose that this viewpoint is, at heart, religious, but I find it is shared by quite a few atheists and agnostics. I can’t, in all honesty, distinguish my views on this subject from those, say, of Dominic Lawson, an atheist from a Jewish cultural background. Or from those of the late Christopher Hitchens, who was a pro-lifer in his way. Or from any atheist who believes that life is sacred, and that this life begins some way before birth. To claim that concern about abortion is the preserve of the religious is, in its way, a slander on agnostics and atheists. The idea of Catholics having a secret allegiance to the Pope is a familiar, stubborn trope in British history. But what’s new is that this analysis now applies to all ‘people of faith’. And it is creating, in some quarters, a view that religion is a bias that ought to be declared. Perhaps in an official register.

When Evan Harris headed the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, he felt that expert witnesses should declare their religious affiliation before giving their opinions. In 2009 the World Association of Medical Editors took this into an academic context, and said that editors of medical journals should require contributors to declare any interests that might affect their views. Yes, but which views? Patricia Casey, a professor of psychiatry at University College Dublin, wrote a commentary in 2008 on a paper about the effects of abortion on mental health for the British Journal of Psychiatry. She was promptly taken to task for not declaring her Catholicism — yet some of her critics had themselves undeclared interests as abortion providers. The authors of a recent paper on abortion and mental health, funded by the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, didn’t feel obliged to say that the foundation was also biased: it was ideologically pro-choice. But crucially, it’s religious belief that appears to undermine the validity of your research and your academic integrity. Secular prejudice doesn’t count.

It’s an extraordinarily offensive assumption that people convinced of a political persuasion can be seen as rational, as long as they don’t go to church, mosque or synagogue. And if they are religious, it is to be assumed that their options are dictated to them by a priest, rabbi or imam. In America, where churchgoing levels are still quite high, things are different. An interesting aspect of the vice-presidential debate between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden was that it was between practising Catholics. Their take on politics could hardly be more different but both declared without embarrassment that they were influenced by their religion. Paul Ryan said his pro-life approach is ‘not simply because of my Catholic faith… but it’s also because of reason and science’. Joe Biden said he shared the same position on abortion, but declined to impose it on others. Two Catholics, two views. It happens.

But Joe Biden went further than any British politician would. ‘My religion defines who I am,’ he said. ‘And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. People who need help.’ It’s quite possible that Duncan Smith would make the same argument. But does that make him politically suspect?

That’s the thing: religion does indeed affect our moral outlook. But, if anything, it’s in the direction of compassion and justice. It means having a thing about the poor. Yet you’d get short shrift from secularists if you prefaced every policy about wanting to diminish poverty and help the vulnerable with the declaration of interest that you are a person of faith. Religion has an agenda all right: it’s about being your brother’s keeper. I don’t think, though, that it’s what the secularist lobby has in mind.

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Show comments
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Moore/100002860584188 Jim Moore

    The trouble with this is over looking the evil some people do in the name of faith and Christianity and most times then not it is hypocritical in action

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Dale/100001162947374 John Dale

    No, not when it comes to trying to crowbar their dogma into the law of the land you most certainly cannot.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.jolliffe Paul Randle-Jolliffe

      Crowbar into the law of the Land,? perhaps you don’t realise that the law of the land is Christian at its very foundations, maybe you ought to read the Laws of Alfred, Magna Carta, the Queens Oath!

  • Christian

    Hmmm, you appear to be unaware that the laws (and customs) of the land have their foundation in Christianity. Always amusing to witness the hypocrisy of those who enjoy the benefits of Christianity whilst railing against it. We are all basking in the warm afterglow, when its gone we will all wish more than anything it were still here.

    • http://twitter.com/chrisjv91 chris

      Are you suggesting murder and theft would be legal without the influence of Christianity? Much like they are in atheist China or Islamic Saudi Arabia? Or is it our freedoms and civil liberties you ascribe to Christianity? I seem to remember quite a few people fleeing our shores in the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries from religious persecution and oppression to establish the New World… Religion does not have a monopoly on morals and ethics, in my opinion.

      • Dr Crackles

        No because of the b’tzelem elohim we all have some sense of justice.

      • http://nickssanctuary.com/ Nick Payne

        In the same vein, religion does not have the monopoly on inhuman errors and activity either. In the modern world we have totalitarian regimes without a religion where people who dare to have a faith are persecuted… North Korea is right up there, top of the list. You might argue that they do have a religion based on cult of personality… but I think you’d be missing the point. All that has happened there to bring that about… is nature abhoring a vacuum.

        Human beings need to take responsibility for their actions. It isn’t any of the moral compasses we hold up (secular or religious), that lead us down a dark path… it is our own nature, which is susceptible to selfish behaviour. When a selfish attitude drives our religion or philosophy, THAT is when we become warped, dangerous, fanatical and militant… and undermines everything we stand for – religious or not.

    • JacksDad

      So you think that no morals, customs or behavioral laws existed in humanity before Jesus ‘graced’ the planet? Just how blinkered are you? Mankind had been around and forming partnerships, friendships and cooperatives for thousands of years prior to the appearance or invention of the Jesus model. As Chris says, religion does not have a monopoly on morals, or ethics – no more than it has had any effect on altruism and human cooperation for the good of the group or community. Many would say that religion has had the opposite effect.

  • Dr_Spence

    My problem here is trusting people to make good decisions when they are quite able to believe stuff for which there is no evidence and is actually counter to how we know the world works – based on science. I honestly cannot trust anybody who has “faith”.

    • Dr Crackles

      Sounds like faith in science to me. No bad thing mind.

    • Hugh

      And yet you have Christian socialists and Christian Tories, Christians who support higher taxes and those who want them cut – in fact, believers on different sides of almost every debate. Your hypothesis that believers can’t make “good” decisions doesn’t seem very well supported by the evidence.

      • MichtyMe

        Faith is belief without evidence, not best in decision making. The religious, when given a choice between the impossible having happened or someone having told a tale, are willing to choose for the former, scary.

        • Hugh

          You don’t seem to have really addressed my point.

          • First L

            Because taxes are not exactly something addressed in the Bible. Jesus says render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Render unto God, that which is God’s. It’s a tithe for God, but he doesn’t say how much Caesar should have.

            MichtyMe is referring to moral arguments. Like abortion The author of the piece states that she doesn’t believe in abortion because a foetus is a human entity – as defined by biology. Well yes, but should a human entity be protected at any and all costs? Why is having a child the moral thing to do, especially if the foetus is not yet conscious or sentient, when there may be many moral reasons the mother chooses not to have the child. The most basic of which may even be, I don’t want to raise a child in the current era of doom and gloom or I can’t afford to raise a child – their life would not be worth living.

            Without taking this morality into account, the moral absolute of a foetus being a human entity therefore must be protected above any and all costs, becomes a rather insane view based on ideology – not individual facts. Therefore the author has adopted a religious style belief – inflexible ideology, even if she has convinced herself that she has not. The point is that there are arguments for and against every single moral you can think of. Even the ten commandments. Thou shalt not kill! – what, not even Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, Gaddafi? Euthanasia where the person wants to die? Thus a moral absolute is in fact an absence of critical thought or appreciation of the individual case. Because every case is individual. Even if you come to the same decision afterwards – no it is not right to kill Hitler, or Stalin, or Saddam etc, at least put the critical thought into it, case by case. If you maintain the moral absolute – no it is never right to kill, even your enemies or mass murderers, then how do you stop them? If Bin Laden had not been killed would Al Qaeda not have been reduced to a runt organisation? A figurehead in prison is still a powerful figurehead. But if you do kill, then where do you draw the line? what level of crime attracts the death penalty or political assassination?

            A moral absolute is an abdication of taking responsibility for your own morality, an abdication of realising that yes, sometimes you have to be hypocritical with your moral decisions, an abdication of really discussing and therefore understanding the consequences of any particular action you may take. The author has a moral absolute that a foetus is a human entity. Whatever she bases that view on, though because it is a moral absolute it stands as a religious type viewpoint, it abdicates her responsibility for the consequences to mothers on any particular case that is influenced by her views.

          • Hugh

            And the scientific theory holding that a woman’s right to choose is paramount is what, exactly? Moreover the 24-week limit isn’t based on sentience or consciousness, but viability. In any case, whether that or any other criteria is an appropriate test isn’t a scientific question but a philosophical and ethical one. Nor is holding that a feotus is a human entity a uniquely religious conclusion. It’s also one that everybody who doesn’t believe in the right to abortion up to moment the baby is actually out must subscribe to in some way.

            Moreover, the fact that not all Christians are strict pacifists, and not all (in fact a minority) oppose abortion in all cases rather suggests believing does not preclude believers putting “critical thought” into it, case by case, and that most do not understand every line of the Bible as a moral absolute; indeed in many cases it’s impossible to read it as such.

            People’s arguments are informed by their principles. You offer no convincing argument why drawing those principles from religious teaching reduces their worth or is less likely to lead to “good” decisions.

          • First L

            I didn’t say there was a scientific principle behind a right to choose. I never mentioned the right to choose at all. But seeing as you’ve brought it up – the right to choose comes from the philosophy that our bodies are the first right of any individual. That no one else has any right or say over what you choose to do with your body over the age of adulthood (ranging from 14-20) and except in terms of illegal substances or practices.

            Therefore a woman has ultimate right over her own body. She gets to make the decision over her pregnancy over and above anyone else. The point I was making is that this viewpoint can be challenged and should be. Because it will make the argument stronger.

            I didn’t say that the argument was based in religion, I said the terms of it were religious by default of creating a moral absolute as religious arguments are wont to do.

            In your second paragraph you speak about most Christians, and if you had clarified that by saying British Christians, I would have agreed, however the vast majority of Christians are now American and the vast majority of them (or at least the most vocal) do take the Bible as a moral and literal absolute and are so entrenched in their moral absolutes that they actually end up distorting reality and logic (creationists) in order to suit their worldview.

            All principles are absolute, not just religious ones. And absolute principles will lead to a bad outcome as often as they lead to a good one if they are not subjected to critical thought each time they are applied. Why was it right to invade Afghanistan but wrong to invade Iraq? Same principle – remove a brutal dictatorship, different circumstances – Saddam not part of Al Qaeda, no UN resolution, unilateral illegal aggression against a sovereign country, lies about wmd, Bush Family/Saddam vendetta etc etc. But Blair and Bush took the same principle of invasion without considering the different circumstances, and now are considered by many to be war criminals for their lack of critical thought about what they were doing. That is why absolute principles – whether religious, philosophical or ethical are – not necessarily wrong, but cannot be applied absolutely.

          • Hugh

            So, the pro-choice position is based on principle; the pro-life position is based on principles (sometimes religious); all principles are absolute; but we shouldn’t apply absolute principles absolutely; and (in this country at least) we admit that believers often don’t.

            So we can’t trust believers to make good decisions, why? Or do you even disagree? I’m afraid I struggle to follow you.

            As for the author’s views – I can’t really speak on her behalf, but I don’t really see any evidence that she does oppose abortion in all cases, anyway, which rather suggests she’s not applying the principle absolutely.

            This – “All principles are absolute, not just religious ones. And absolute
            principles will lead to a bad outcome as often as they lead to a good
            one” – incidentally, is obviously untrue.

          • http://twitter.com/andysstudy Andrew Evans

            I respect your principle – that “our bodies are the first right of any individual.” But you haven’t demonstrated that this principle is any more RATIONAL than a principal that might say “the right to be born is the first right of any individual.”

            I appreciate that you believe the first of those to be more important – but what scientific/rational reason can you give why it should be do? And do you really think there are NO rational reasons why the second one might be true?

          • First L

            That’s the whole point. I’m not arguing that it is more rational. I’m saying that every single argument in existence can be morally argued from at least two different sides. So abortion can be morally argued from the point of view of the mother or the child.

            Therefore a moral absolute – taking the side of the child in every situation – or indeed taking the side of the mother in every situation – therefore actually becomes morally wrong. Because a moral absolute cannot cover every single situation, each situation must be examined on its own merits.

            So you can argue your second statement as much as you want. What you have to realise is that it may be true some of the time, but it will not be true all of the time and that it is actually your moral duty to argue for the first statement as and when the situation may call for it.

      • JoeDM

        Policy decisions should not be made on the basis of some brand of ritual superstition.

        • Hugh

          Because atheist MPs make most of their policy decision on sound scientific theory?

    • terry66

      And the people like Marx and Stalin who had no faith, were no so reliable

    • Andy

      And don’t you have faith? On the other hand science is limited by its method; I’m not saying it does not provide real knowledge, which it does, but the fact that we can’t empirically prove something can’t mean that that something doesn’t exist… do you believe in honesty? Courage? Love? Hate? They’re very real things! Best!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.lovett1 Brian Lovett

    IDS is not a christian, he is barking mad. He would probably give Jesus a good slap and tell him to get a proper job.

  • http://twitter.com/Ranmore Ranmore

    “Can you trust a Christian?”

    No idea but you certainly can’t trust a Catholic – they have a doctrine called “Mental Reservation” which is used to deceive when necessary for the greater good (or more usually for the benefit of the church) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_reservation

    • JoeDM

      You can’t trust a muslim either because of the doctrine called “Taqiyya” – the
      Islamic principle of lying for the sake of allah

    • Paul

      And you cannot read your own references. Your link says that Mental Reservation was never approved by the Catholic Church and eventually condemned by it.

  • http://twitter.com/Ranmore Ranmore

    “I am also anti-abortion, but not because of scripture. Not because of
    ideas about when a foetus acquires a soul. Not because the Pope tells me
    to be.”

    Lol – some people have absolutely no self-awareness.

    • terry66

      Is it not possible to arrive at the same conclusion from several different paths?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gordon.hide Gordon Hide

    I would have thought it obvious that anybody who’s basic premises are matters of contention is suspect when it comes to reaching rational conclusions. This is true even if their use of logic is incontrovertibly correct.

    One needs to know whether the suspect premises are assumed when making their current argument

    • terry66

      What–Facts and reasoning don’t matter–it’s a person religion that we must judge them on?

    • MahmudH

      Please define what “basic premises” are not “matters of contention”. And what topic in political life can you settle without touching any contentious premise?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.lovett1 Brian Lovett

    You must be joking, where is the Christian principle in stripping the poor and the needy of their rights and income, condemning hundreds of thousands to fear and poverty?

    Disgusted Theologian of Canterbury.

  • John

    A more important question would be ‘can you trust a Muslim?’. But I’m sure you wouldn’t print that article…

  • MD

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
    Without faith you cannot please God

    • merdrignac

      What a load of very well expressed rubbish. Faith is the belief in the non-provable as a retreat from reality.

      • Adam Townsend

        How well your reaction makes my point … (see below)

  • Bob Hutton

    In answer to the question at the head of this article – a lot depends upon what a “Christian” is. A Christian is not someone raised in the C of E and baptised as a baby therefore calling themselves a Christian. In New Testament terms a true Christian is one who has repented of his/her sins and accepted Christ as a personal Saviour. Many who call themselves Christians have not done that. Their “faith” is just a cultural matter rather than a deep personal belief in Jesus.

    • merdrignac

      I see so YOU reserve the right to say what a christian is or isn’t. There you have the basic problem with all religion, you all think you’re the ultimate arbiters of the true faith. Well I’m sorry but you can’t all be correct, because you all contradict one another. Why are you a Christian (of some sort) rather than a Muslim (of some sort) or Hindu or Animist or Jedi?

      • Bob Hutton

        The New Testament is generally recognised as the definitive document on the Christian faith. In John 1 v 11-13 we read that those who received Christ are the children of God. Moreover, John chapter 3 makes it clear that one needs to be Born Again to be right with God. Receiving Christ is a personal decision not something that comes through simply being born into the C of E or the RC Church.

  • Student

    As Mark Twain said: “Faith is believing what you
    know ain’t so.” So not a great place to start if you want rational people to take your views seriously.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    To proclaim that you are “a person of faith” is to announce you will believe practically anything on almost no evidence.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    So if you ever run into God or Mr. Jesus Christ, tell um from me that they’re doing a pretty sloppy job down here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1384716273 Micheal Freshney

      Unforunately, every problem is manmade, as usual man has to pass the buck for their own stupidity onto something/one who is not at fault.

  • Warwick

    Science is concerned with the behaviour of things, specifically insentient and unfree things. It is concerned with behaviour which is entirely predictable and which can be measured mathematically. When we begin to consider the behaviour of humans who are conscious and free we have gone beyond the realm of science and beyond the realm of control and predictability which is one of the main attractions of science. In this sphere, (unless we are mad Skinnerites) we have to acknowledge that our efforts to explain, and control, scientifically meet with very limited success. Unless we are willing to acknowledge a spiritual dimension of reality we will behave like ignorant provincial oafs, trampling all over the real values by which people and societies organize their lives.
    Catholicism, in times gone by, was a very triumphal and supremicist organization that took delight in mass murder, (of people such as the Albigensians), and thought that attending the burning alive of dissidents like Giordano Bruno was jolly good fun. Catholicism, unlike Islam, has struggled out of these medieval mindsets. The spiritual has a chance of finding some sort of expression in Catholicism, indeed it is much more likely to grow there than in the barren ground of scientific, materialist absolutism.

  • Adam Townsend

    This article explores the often quite explicit totalitarianism and intolerance of even some moderate atheists. I do not consider myself an overly religious individual. However, I am increasingly astonished by the behaviour of some atheists who in making arguments against people of faith in the public sphere, deploy the very attributes they claim to despise, often to a more visceral degree … Sadly I count some friends and colleagues amongst them.

  • SafestRabbit

    Should not an argument stand up on it’s own merits regardless of the culture or environment it is voiced in?

  • http://twitter.com/andysstudy Andrew Evans

    Several people posting seem to be under the impression that Christianity is essentially irrational. I think that’s wrong but let us suppose, for a minute, that everything which is not scientifically rational SHOULD to be banned as a value from the public square.

    Amongst other things that cannot be defended as scientifically rational (or at least can only ever be said to have relative validity) would be…

    …and, perhaps most significant here, democracy.

    In a world without a divine lawgiver there is, finally, no rational reason for prizing any of these things as permanent, unchanging virtues; in the neo-Darwinian world in which some contributors seem to live there is, really, no rational reason for moral virtues at all – even if an argument can be made that they help the survival of the species there is no rational reason why we should want the species to survive.

    The truth is that, whatever the irrationalities of the religion (and I concede there are many) atheists and agnostics also spend most of their lives living by a moral code that is not strictly “rational.”

    To take a common example, which atheist Peter Singer has long exposed, there is nothing ‘rational,’ in terms of biology, about allowing abortion but not infanticide. But I suspect few posting here would draw Singer’s conclusion and allow both!

    Sp perhaps a little more self-reflection is called for before anybody who happens to believe that the universe is not a self-generated phenomenon is consigned to the bin marked “irrational.”

  • JK

    In answer to the question… Yes you can trust a Christian… Not all but many of them no doubt, you can trust a banker, not all but many, you can trust a politician, not all but many… I don’t think a belief calls into question an individuals ability to be rational but does mean a situation is seen through a belief set of spectacles, but then we all see through spectacles whether belief, experiences, convictions, upbringing.. We all have an influenced view and I’d suggest the best way is for different viesw to work together and try and complement one another rather than dismiss one view completely!

  • http://twitter.com/jeremyr1 Jeremy Rodell

    Arguments should of course be taken on their merits, rather than on the basis of opinion/assumptions about the beliefs of the person putting them forward. And, as a humanist, I agree that it’s all too easy for non-religious people to attribute beliefs and opinions to religious people that in fact they don’t hold (and vice versa). Not all Christians are creationists, not all atheists are anti-religious.

    Equally, motivations are important if the real arguments are to be surfaced and debated in the first place. So it’s surely reasonable to expect powerful belief positions not to be deliberately obfuscated. Matthew Parris gave the example of Bishop Michael Nasir-Ali, who – in a public debate – deployed reasonable arguments against gay marriage but refused to acknowledge his previously-expressed position that homosexuality is wrong. If he thinks that, there is little point in debating the finer points of the definition of “marriage”, as his moral view will always trump any conclusion. It’s the imposition of that moral view that is the “real” subject of the debate.

  • philip sayers

    should be can you trusty a tory?

  • http://twitter.com/willscookson Will Cookson

    Love the comments – they seem to make Melanie’s main argument clearly true

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Craig-Clark/1051184102 Craig Clark

    I just want a level playing fields, that is all. Proper debate, and not just crass acceptance of dogma.
    Christianity no longer represents the averages person’s values or ethics, e.g. wives don’t obey their husbands – i.e. wives can not be legally raped. And husbands can’t beat their wives with a stick, no-thicker than their thumb !
    Some toxic Christian ideology in the UK, still dominates, e.g. – why do we have Bishops in the house of Lords. And why is our Head of State, also Head of our State religion. That is so wrong, on so many levels.

  • mikewaller

    Whilst I do not question the sincerity of Melanie McDonagh has to say, I have yet to meet anybody brought up a Catholic who does no themselves lay emphasis the extent to which they have been indelibly marked by their Church as in “Give me a child until he is seven…….” Is it unreasonable, therefore, that others suspect that they have in some way been “got at” on this kind of topic?

    Nor do I think that the notion of people of faith having an exceptional commitment to being their brother’s keeper bears much examination. As I recall it, most studies I have seen tend to suggest the opposite. Much as I admire Christ’s teachings, the observation of Gandhi’s usually rendered as “We would all be Christians if it weren’t for the Christians” contains a lot more than a grain of truth.

    On the issue of abortion itself, I think that the Catholic position is deeply damaged by the Church’s attitude to contraception. In my mind, only a fool would be opposed to that, so why should I be much impressed by anything else those espousing such an approach have to say, particularly on matters having to do with reproduction?

    In my view, a observation made by the late Alistair Cooke is particularly helpful here. Commenting some years ago following yet another murder of a gynecologist in the US, he said the problem was that both sides of the debate had a seemingly sound bedrock. On one hand the principle that a women should not be forced to carry a child she does not want; on the other, that human life is sacred. As neither premise definitively trumps the other, people of good will must seek some kind of compromise. My take is that as (in my view) contraception is fine, there should be no serious objection to a “morning after” pill. At the other end of the process, as murdering a baby immediately it is born is a heinous crime, so too is killing an unborn child just before delivery. The need, therefore, is to advance conceptually from these two fixed points until an interface between acceptability and unacceptability is reached. Inevitably, where that interface is can only be a matter of opinion, My inclination is to think that the present arrangements in the UK are about right.

  • http://www.voteforyourself.org.uk Dave at Vote For Yourself

    When you’re 6 you believe in the Tooth Fairy with some justification – teeth left under the pillow miraculously turn into money overnight. There’s more evidence to support the existence of the Tooth Fairy than any god. If you still believed in the Tooth Fairy when you’re 36, they’d lock you up, but it’s perfectly alright to believe in some archaic stories and everyone is supposed to “respect” your strange views.

    Anyone who is genuinely unable to sleep properly because abortions are taking place or people are being tortured and executed by the state should immediately press for us to boycott China and the USA until the former abandons its 1 child policy, leaves Tibet and both countries stop imperialism and abolish the death penalty. If you’re not prepared to do that then you’re not 100% committed. If you’re not 100%, what are you? 90% most days, 70% others?

    Seriously, the hypocrisy of Christians like Blair, IDS etc, starting wars, putting the boot into the poor who Jesus loved, they need to acknowledge that while Jesus MIGHT have been the son of god, he was a DEFINITELY a revolutionary, DEFINITELY hated bankers and would hate what the Tories are doing if he was around now.

    Logically it means that they’re damned to an eternity in hell.

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